Teambuilding, Leadership and Management in at least two worlds.

One of the fascinating things about raiding, and especially leading, in World of Warcraft is that it surreptitiously builds a whole new set of skills related to working with virtual teams. In the Real World, we often don’t communicate all that much via text with our teammates, particularly when it’s really important that we have clarity. In Wow, with the exception of voice chat clients like Ventrillo, text is all we have to work with. Of course, we can embellish with a few emotes, but they’re not exactly subtle communications!  /rude  /jk

It’s Still Communication When I’m Keeping My Distance, Right?

In corporations, text is often about distancing us rather than improving the depth of our communications. Text is used, much of the time, to CYA – “Cover Your Assets”. If you have bad news to communicate, or something that might make the other person unhappy, it often seems easier to do that via text. If you’re uncomfortable approaching someone, text is often less threatening than a real life meeting.

It’s also used for other reasons, of course. It’s easy, inexpensive, often asynchronous (you don’t have to both be available at the same time), and tolerably efficient. Not that long ago we’d leave a note, or mail a letter, or send a fax. Now we have email, IM, Twitter, and Facebook to expand our communications repertoire.

Look ‘Em In the Eye

However, when you really need to understand someone, you do it face to face. Hiring, negotiations, sales, performance appraisals, certain types of training are examples of activities where being face to face raises the level of communication enormously. Posture, gestures, and other body language, as well as tone of voice, are huge in building trusting relationships. Eye contact is probably even more important. Even touch matters. Salespeople are taught how to shake hands well, because it’s important.

This topic came to mind because I’m doing business with someone who is highly skilled in NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming). Due to this background, he’s exquisitely conscious of body language, eye movement, muscle tension and other visual communications (both deliberate and inadvertent). He knows how to read these clues, and he’s very unhappy in any communication where they’re missing. We’re meeting regularly from across the continent, and phone just isn’t visual enough for him. so we usually use a Skype video chat connection.

If You Only Have One Channel, Make It A Good Program

This really highlights for me how much playing Wow has affected my comfort level with working very closely with people in a text-only environment. I “hire” based on text interactions as a guild leader in Wow. I gauge people’s mood from guild chat and private comments. I resolve most conflict in text. Having done this for years, I’ve learned to do certain things to facilitate my interactions with my guildmates.

  • Figure out how you feel, so you can communicate it accurately. “Decode” your own stuff and state it accurately.
  • If someone upsets you in any way, inquire immediately about their intention.
  • Realize that it’s not all about you and there are real people out there, even if you can’t see them.
  • Fear strangers less. The vast majority of the people I meet online are kind, pleasant, intelligent human beings.
  • Learn to summarize and give instructions well.
  • Learn to ask good questions. Dialogue is important to any goal you want to reach together.
  • Appreciate the people around you, especially those who put effort into trying to communicate clearly and interact positively.
  • Always give people the benefit of the doubt, and room to save face.
  • Listen well.

I believe that these skills, honed in virtual worlds, equip us better to work on virtual teams. The dragons we set out to defeat are different in the Real World, but the ability to communicate well, building trusting, respectful relationships when we’re not face to face, is a very useful skill in all worlds.

This post is the third of three which began with:

Becoming a Great Manager – Part 1
Becoming a Great Manager – Part 2

Now let’s distill this down a bit further, and then if you want more, you can read First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently. These four areas are called “the Four Keys” of great managers in the book:

1. Choose People For Their Talents

Rule to break: Hire for experience, intelligence, and determination.

When selecting people, select for talent, not simply experience, intelligence, or determination. Skills and knowledge can be taught, talent cannot. Skills are the “how-to’s” of a role, like how to sheep with a focus macro. Knowledge is the information you are aware of, like the importance of Starlight for damage dealers on the Hodir fight. These can be learned, or taught, at any point. Talents, however, relate to reoccurring patterns of thought, feeling or behavior in the individual. They have to do with how your individual brain is wired and what you’re good at, that gives you joy. A talent is evidenced by a tank that not only has extreme combat awareness and reaction time, but takes joy in exercising it through protecting the squishy players.

“There is no point in trying to assess people’s abilities without first finding out what they care about.
– Robert J. Thomas

Great managers are excellent at knowing what talents will matter to their teams and organizations, and selecting for them. Also, they have the confidence to hire excellent people and let them perform to their utmost.

“If you hire people who are smaller than you are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. If you hire people who are bigger than you are, we shall become a company of giants.
– David Ogilvy

2. Define the Desired Outcomes

Rule to break: Set expectations by defining the right steps.

When you are setting expectations, focus on outcomes, not the steps to get there. Your people are individuals and may find routes to the goal that you’d never think of. Empower, don’t micromanage. Get obstacles out of the way, provide resources, and point your people in the right direction. They don’t need their hand held every step along the way, and attempting to do so won’t help them grow.

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”
– General George S. Patton

3. Motivate Based On Their Strengths

Rule to break: Motivate by helping your staff identify and overcome their weaknesses.

Motivate someone to improve their areas of strength, rather than focusing on their weaknesses. Their areas of weakness have to simply be adequate to do the job, any further development effort will pay off much better if focused on their strengths. Don’t expect or require everyone to be equally good at everything, or that’s what you may get, in the most mediocre way possible.

Get to know your people, befriend them even, and learn what makes them special and gives them joy to do well. Support them in developing that!

“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

4. Promote/Position People Based on Strengths

Rule to break: Develop your staff by helping them learn and get promoted.

Help your members find the right fit for their particular talents and strengths. Don’t move them to a new role, from one they excel at, because it will make them more well-rounded. Never force someone to primarily focus on an area of weakness, especially by deliberately promoting them so that they can “work on it”. Don’t let job descriptions tyranize your organization. If you have a person with the perfect talents for a job that doesn’t exist, which will benefit your organization, create it. Ensure that your organization doesn’t provide rewards and recognition only to people who are promoted up the hierarchy, even if it takes them away from what they’re best at.

“The task of leadership is not to put greatness into people, but to elicit it, for the greatness is there already.”
– John Buchan

“In a hierarchically structured administration, people tend to be promoted up to their level of incompetence.”
– Lawrence J. Peter

A Final Question

If you comment, perhaps you’d answer a question for me. How many GREAT managers have you known, and why did you think of them that way? Thanks!

In Becoming a Great Manager – Part 1, we talked about the 12 questions that are indicators of a high-performing workplace, according to First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently. We’ll continue our discussion of how to become a Great Manager (or Guild Leader) by talking about the rule-breaking the title of the book refers to. The quotations in this article are taken from successful rule-breaking managers interviewed in the book.

Organizational vision, policies, and atmosphere matter, but what matters most to employee performance and retention is the immediate manager. In Wow terms, this is most often the Guild Leader or Raid Leader. You’ve heard it before, and probably experienced it: “People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers”. The right management is even more important in our gaming organizations, since our members are volunteer “staff”.

The most powerful and “manageable” of the 12 questions are the first 6, and they are about the employee’s perception of whether or not they belong. They are addressed by his or her direct manager’s engagement with the employee as an individual.

“A manager has to remember that he is on stage every day. His people are watching him. Everything he does, everything he says, and the way he says it, sends off clues to his employees. These clues effect performance. So never forget you are on that stage.”

“Never pass the buck.”

Don’t Treat Everyone Equally – Individualize

One of the mostly-unwritten rules of management which the book calls upon us to break is the rule “Everyone should be treated equally”. Of course they shouldn’t. They’re not the same people, or in the same roles, nor do they have the same needs. Each should certainly be treated fairly, but pretending they are the same person in order to do this is simply lazy thinking.

“Make each person comfortable with who they are.”

Most importantly of all, the leader/manager must focus on the strengths of each employee, helping them develop and enhance what they’re good at and excited about. Organizations need great front-line managers that don’t focus on weaknesses. They identify and accept weaknesses, and deal with them by planning  for ways to compensate for them. However, their primary focus and effort is always on best using and developing the employee’s talents and areas of strength.

Get Close to Your Members

Another common belief about management is that leaders must hold themselves aloof from the rank and file. The managers of the most successful teams in the Gallup Study don’t. They get to know their staff on a personal level. They commit on a personal level.

“A lot of listening, a lot of getting to know who they are. It’s ok to become friends.”

“Make very few promises to your people, and keep them all.”

Hire for Talent – What is Talent Anyhow?

The book believes a company is misguided if the job description is so rigid that the person must be bent to conform to it. It’s more valuable to take a really talented person and create the right role just for them. Whatever you do, don’t put someone in a job that isn’t focused on their areas of strength. While skills and knowledge can be built after hiring, talents are something different (more on this in Part 3).

“Hire for talent, and once you’ve hired them, trust them.”

Promote For the Right Reasons

You’re looking for talent when you promote too, particularly to management and leadership positions. Too many organizations exhibit the classic Peter Principle, promoting someone beyond their area of competence (and joy). How many good technical professional’s careers (and those of their direct reports), have been spoiled by promoting them? Just because you’re a great programmer or technical wizard doesn’t mean you can manage people or projects. An amazingly talented and dedicated raider doesn’t necessarily have the right talent and skill for an officer position, and making those roles a “reward” for raiding prowess is a very risky choice for a Guild Leader to make.

“Don’t overpromote people.”

It’s Not About Control

If you think a manager’s main job to to control people, to make them do what they’re supposed to be doing, look again at the first two questions in the list of 12. They are about providing the employee or guild member with a sense of security; imbuing them with the belief that they’ll get the support they need to be successful. Just as you are reading this article to improve your knowledge, because you want to understand successful management, every single hire wants to perform well. Your primary job as a leader is to make sure they know what that looks like, have the resources to do so, have help overcoming organizational roadblocks, and can effectively evaluate and correct their own performance.

You can’t change people, but you can facilitate behavior, and you do this by clarifying expectations and giving consistent and constructive feedback, as well as offering the tools, training and reference materials needed for each role.

Making Your Recruiting Work

How long is your trial period when you hire new staff (or a guild recruit)? What happens during that trial period to evaluate their performance? Are there steps taken to correct inadequate performance? Who makes the call on whether it’s adequate?

Some companies and guilds put serious effort into hiring people who are right in terms of both personality and performance. For example, shoe maker Zappos pays employees a bonus to quit during their recruit period. They want to make sure that they retain only people who are thrilled with the job and feel it’s the right company for them.

Full Disclosure

In World of Warcraft guilds or our real life companies, I think the first step is ensuring that people know what they’re getting into. If you raid till 1 in the morning on most nights, don’t tell recruits that you raid till midnight. If you require overtime on a regular basis, don’t indicate that work hours are 9-5, because they’re not. Misleading a recruit is only going to cause dissatisfaction and problems later. Don’t do it. It’s bad for business. Turnover is expensive.

Fair Policies

I remember one guild that had an enormous turnover rate with new recruits. They’d join, pass their recruit period of a few weeks, and then leave a month later. Typically, that’s about how long it would take them to realize that the guild’s DKP system wasn’t fair to them. It wasn’t capped, nor was it ever reset on new content, so a few long-term guild members (mostly leadership) always had first choice on every item of gear that dropped, every time. There was literally no way for a recruit to ever catch up. If your attendance was perfect for a year and you never bought an item, you’d still be unable to compete with old-time members who were thousands of DKP ahead of you.

So What About Their Performance?

If you’re recruiting well and have a decent-sized pool of applicants, there’s less challenge here. Let’s look over the possibilities:

Performance

High Performance, Low Maintenance Gems

Ideally, you’re recruiting lots of High Performance, Low Maintenance folks: mature, low drama, do their jobs without being pushed to do so, are a good fit in personality. Communicate with them regularly, and tag them promptly when their recruit period is up. Remember to ask if they have friends that would fit well in any spots you’re still recruiting for.

Clear Out the Low Performance, High Maintenance Types

Hopefully, you’re promptly rejecting the Low Performance, High Maintenance folks: immature, unreliable, greedy, into drama, never prepped, and unimpressive performance in their jobs. This is the kind of recruit who has to be the owner’s real-life family to keep a job long in the Real World. If you’re recruiting for a Wow guild and you feel the recruit falls in this quadrant, don’t try to fix it, reject them.

Is a Low Performance, Low Maintenance Recruit Worth Some Effort?

Now it gets a bit trickier. What about the Low Performance, Low Maintenance folks? We run a three week recruit period, normally. Sometimes that’s just not long enough to be sure about these potential members. They’re nice, they fit in well, they’re reliable, but their dps/healing/tanking is a bit “meh”. Not stellar. If it’s content they know, in that class/role, it’s probably not going to get a lot better. If it’s new content, you may want to extend their Recruit period. As we discussed in an earlier post, different people learn in different ways, and some are slower than others.

To be frank, more time doesn’t always work, and it can be that much harder to reject them, but you’ll have to be prepared to do that to these nice people if you give them an extension. However, in a few cases where an extension does work, you can end up with incredibly loyal High Performance, Low Maintenance members who are well worth the effort. So if they’re relatively new to raiding at the level your guild is at, or kinesthetic learners, or very new to the content, giving them more time might be a good call. Look to see whether there’s a slight trend in improved performance. You are tracking performance metrics such as combat logs, right? Just don’t give them an extension without communicating clearly what the issue(s) are, and what you’re looking to see change.

High Performance, High Maintenance – Your Mileage May Vary

This area is a bit of a minefield. You may find the most stellar performers and the greatest challenges here, in the same person. A guildmate once told me that “WoW raiding guilds attract perfectionistic introverts”. In other words, people who are enormously demanding on themselves and others, but sometimes lack people skills. These folks can have challenges with real life vs game balance, and self control issues that result in drama, temper, sulking, tantrums and other forms of behavior that nobody in your organization is going to enjoy. Sometimes a formerly High Performance, Low Maintenance person shifts into these types of behaviors due to Real Life issues and stress.

From a recruiting perspective, you really have to ask yourself whether the (potential) gain justifies the (potential) risk. If you think it would, I would also recommend a frank discussion with the person about acceptable behavior and the consequences if it’s not. Leadership may have to periodically reign these folks in, and their turnover level is often high. On the flip side, they can be incredibly creative contributors. Many high-end raiding guilds (and companies in creative industries) recruit many of these players. They need obsessive perfectionists to achieve guild-first kills, and accept high drama and high turnover as the necessary side effects.

I can’t tell you what’s right for your guild or business. However, if you want to attract long-term High Performance, Low Maintenance raiders or employees, you have to give them an attractive environment to hang out in. At a minimum, I suggest you keep those members who fall into the fairly unstable High Performance, High Maintenance quadrant out of positions of authority. Giving these folks management, raid leading or guild officer positions is pretty high risk. Nobody enjoys abusive management, and organizations never thrive on it, long term.

Not Safe For Work Extreme Examples

The following videos contain lots of abusive and obscene language, and are extreme examples of perfectionistic raid leaders without control of their tempers. Don’t even think of hitting play if you’re at work or have a young child nearby, please. They illustrate extremely well why many of our potential applicants ask to listen in on a raid before applying.

There are a few management theorists out there that really nail it when it comes to identifying what employees care about. Since retention is a good thing, because turnover is expensive in several ways, leaders need to care what keeps employees happy and productive on the job. So do guild leaders. In the back of my mind, I see Mel Gibson with a smirk on his face and the cover of that movie “What Women Want”. Since I never actually saw it, and can’t give out our gender secrets (at least not easily!), I’ll stick to talking about business and guild leading and you can decide for yourself whether the theory translates over to other types of relationships.

The simplest model I’ve seen approaches the issue from a negative perspective, and illustrates three factors that create “Job Misery”. This is Patrick Lencioni’s model, taken from his book, The Three Signs of a Miserable Job. Picture a triangle, representing Job Misery. Each side is made up of the following three factors:

Anonymity.

Nobody knows who I am. Nobody cares. Nobody says hello when I log in, or says goodnight when I leave. Nobody ever catches me doing anything right. Or wrong. They just don’t care about me. I’m just another generic <tank> <healer> <dps>.

Irrelevance.

I need to know that my efforts matter to someone. I don’t feel part of the team. Nobody thanks me for the work I do. Nobody notices my debuffing, healing, decursing, mob pickup, kiting, etc. I need to feel I’m contributing to the guild’s success. Would it matter to them if I never showed up?

Immeasurement.

I wish I knew how I was doing. I don’t want the Raid Leader’s opinion, I want to know for myself whether I’m doing the right stuff.

This word, coined by Lencioni, is about your ability to objectively judge and measure your own performance, and whether you are meeting the necessary standard. It’s about having a tangible indication of success or failure, that isn’t subject to another’s opinion, so that you can feel in control of your own situation. What your guild could do to enable this is to make sure you understand your role in the fight clearly; and provide objective tools such as WWS or other meters, while encouraging you to compare your performance to your previous ones.

So, what do we as leaders do to combat “Job Misery” on our raiding teams? Since we run a completely volunteer organizaton, failing to address the three factors above means our guilds fail. Some of the factors that contribute to combating one or more of Lencioni’s Three Factors include:

Some Things Members Do Want

Camadarie. Cheerful guild chat with low drama.

Being greeted as they log on.

Interesting forum participation with a personal touch. Perhaps a Real Life pics thread, screenshot of the week thread, or humor section.

Officers with some people skills. Friendly. Approachable.

Leaders who catch members doing something right – in public or in private tells.

Leaders who catch members doing something wrong – privately, respectfully, in tells.

An upbeat, low drama, respectful raid environment.

Raid strats discussed on the forums, with each person’s role clearly laid out.

Published WWS or similar performance logs.

Understanding of how to read performance logs effectively.

Hearing “thank you”. For buffs, for Fish Feasts, for showing up on time, for working hard. Sincerely.

The opportunity to have suggestions listened to.

Celebration of successes. Even incremental ones.

Guildmates and officers who remember there’s a person behind the toon.

Being noticed, appreciated and significant to the team.

What else does your guild do to combat “Job Misery”?

Recruiting for Success

In the grand scheme of running a successful guild or business, few things have the long-term impact that recruiting does. Consistently poor decisions here will be the end of your operation, eventually.

The Best Method of Prospecting for Members

The very best way to prospect for members is to ask your current members for recommendations, particularly those who were raid leaders or officers in former guilds. Your raiding members have incentive to suggest only those who can be a successful part of the team. If the new recruit sucks, their raid progression will suffer and their repair bills go up.

In the Real World, what have you designed into the company that gives your staff incentive to bring you quality applicants? You don’t want all their friends, you want the smart and effective ones with a good personality and work ethic. So what can you do to discourage them from recommending their loser stoner uncle who lives in the basement?

Publish the Connection

In a newsletter or on the company intranet, make sure you publish a welcome that states who recommended this person. If the new recruit is awful, peer pressure will encourage them NOT to make the same mistake.

Reward Success

Offer a reward to the referrer, upon completion of a successful recruit period. In the guild, this can just be a heartfelt thank you from the Guild Leader for having brought in such an effective raider. A private comment is good, a public one is MUCH better. Most people enjoy public praise, particularly for a specific act, and others tend to try to emulate the behavior which got that person “rewarded”. It’s important to be consistent, make sure you recognize all members who perform the same act in the same way.

Don’t hesitate to offer a financial bonus, particularly in markets/industries where recruiting is challenging. In Real Life, the size of the bonus should be significant but not overly large, and tied to the value of the position. Keep in mind what their efforts have saved you in recruiting costs. For example, a headhunter’s fee is often 10% (or more) of a year’s salary. While you might not have employed a headhunter for this particular job, a bonus of perhaps 20% of a month’s salary should be about right. In other words, if they recruited an 80k senior programmer, a bonus of about $1300 is appropriate. For a 30k receptionist, a $500 bonus is plenty. Remember that this bonus should be paid out after a successful recruit period. Whatever incentive structure you choose, realize that it’s something you’re building into the organization on a permanent basis. Any financial incentive which is offered and later removed causes resentment, unless (and sometimes even if) it’s identified as temporary. When in doubt, tread carefully. In a union environment, don’t even think about taking this step without consultation, preferably the kind where the union officer, in conversation with you, comes up with this idea as his own and talks you into it.

Structure the entire organization so that they know WIFFM

If you’ve built a profit-sharing model into your organization, make sure you clearly communicate how successful recruiting impacts an employee’s profits. Considering “What’s In It For Me” from their point of view is one of the most useful models to use when dealing with people in almost any circumstance. Points to emphasize include:
* Turnover is expensive and lowers profits
* Effective hiring of the right person with the right skills and work ethic makes us more profitable, which increases the size of each employee’s share

Other Methods of Prospecting

In game, it’s important to have your well-written recruiting post in as many places as possible. The post should make clear not only the job requirements, but the personality and values of the organization. You want raiders that FIT your culture, so taking the time to tell them what it is, and what’s in it for them, will reward your efforts.

Post your recruiting post on the guild forums, on the server forums, and in the cross-server recruiting forum at a minimum. Look also for sites like LookingforGuild.net to widen the base from which you can draw members. Use specialty sites like Tankspot’s Recruiting Forum if you’re looking for a specific role such as a tank.

job-ad

In Real Life, the equivalents are local job boards (government and privately run), Craigslist, Monster, and the web sites of any appropriate niche organization. For example, if you’re looking for a web designer, list on Technet.com. If you’re looking for a Chief Financial Officer, list on appropriate Chartered Accountant or CMA (Certified Management Accountant) sites for your area. A quick Google search will offer you a list to choose from.

How to Fail at Prospecting for New Recruits

Procrastinate on making recruiting decisions. Then put a brief “looking for Resto Shaman” post on your guild web page, or buried in your forums. Sit around waiting for applicants, and watching your guild slowly fail as more roster spots open up and are treated the same way. Cancel raids due to lack of members. Watch it all spiral out of control as more leave. Give up raiding and fold the guild.

Every organization needs a clearly stated intention. If you don’t know what your purpose is, you aren’t going to have a hope of aligning a team to get you there.

“Our intention creates our reality.”
– Wayne Dyer

My World of Warcraft guild started as a split off from another guild. Many of us had joined it to raid, and yet its most senior officers, although they’d never stated it, saw it as a social guild. The focus and discipline of raiding wasn’t something they wanted to do, and one day one of them told several of us who had been trying to keep raids going, “If raiding is essential to your enjoyment of the game, you should leave.” We waited a day or two for the Guild Leader to retract that statement. We were angry, because we’d never been told it wasn’t a raiding guild – in fact we’d joined that guild to raid. With a little thought, we realized that we’d been done a favor. We had clearly been told we couldn’t have what we wanted there, and we knew what we wanted. Five of us decided to leave and form our new raiding guild.

One reason it has been successful is that we stated our purpose, our intention, in writing at the start. Everyone who joined that guild knew what its goals were. Now, about 80% of the old guild ended up following the few who left, and that became a challenge in the first year, because our vision of progression raiding involved educating all of those people to what that meant and what it cost. However, we had the touchstone of our clearly stated objective for the guild to fall back on, and we stuck to it as we created and refined policy. Anyone in our guild could tell you its purpose, which is one of the essentials for its survival and prerequisites for success.

I’ve often noticed when talking to entrepreneurs, or even employees, that the clarity with which they can state the intention of their organization or role is a pretty good test of how effective they are in it. Ask someone “what do you do?” or “what does your company do?”. If you can’t get a clear, focused answer in 25 words or less, it’s a symptom of a much bigger problem.

Some Examples

Our guild is a guild of friends formed to have fun together raiding all current progression content, while keeping Real Life > Game.

I am a ‘personal business trainer’, partnering with organizations and entrepreneurs that have made the decision to make a quantum shift in their growth.

Try It Yourselfmagnifying_glass

Try the ’25 words or less’ test on your guild, your business, your job. Try it on your choice of friends. In this world of information overload, being able to refine your focus to what is most important is critical. When you can angle the magnifying glass just right, you can light a fire!

 

About Author

Atris, known in another world as Karilee, is a World of Warcraft Guild Leader and Business Consultant fascinated by how Leadership, Management and Teambuilding work in two different worlds. She believes that good leaders, good managers and good teams are essential for successfully defeating dragons, no matter what world you find yourself in.